Endangered Florida Panther Released into the Wild after being Raised in Captivity
An endangered Florida panther was released into the wild after being rescued as a kitten and raised in captivity with minimal human contact.
The 2-year-old panther was rescued with his sister by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission when they were just 5-month old kittens. Their mother was found dead in Collier County in September of 2011.
"If we weren't able to catch those kittens they most certainly would have died," said Darrell Land, panther team leader for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Kittens of that age would not have the skill sets to live on their own without mom."
The endangered Florida panthers learned to hunt deer, rabbits and armadillos and until the biologists were satisfied and thought they would have a chance of survival in the wilderness. The female was successfully released on Jan. 31 in Collier County. Biologists said Wednesday that she has been doing well.
On April 3, it was the male's turn to be released into the wild. The male panther was set free at the Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area along the borders of Palm Beach and Broward counties. This release area was picked out because there are fewer adult males who have marked the territory there.
"We wanted to give this guy a chance to get acclimated on his own without having to immediately face resident adult males," said Land.
The release of the 120-pound panther went perfectly as planned. "It was picture perfect," said Darrell Land. "The cat must have followed the script even though we didn’t give him a copy of it."
"The cat did exactly what he was supposed to do. We hoped he was going to run down the road and run into the bushes, and he did," Land added. "The cat hesitated a second, shook his head and listened a second, and then said 'I'm out of here.'"
"To see him run straight like that for such a distance and running free off into the woods makes everything worthwhile," Land expressed.
There are currently between 100 and 160 Florida panthers living in the wild today according to a 2011 study. This is a noteworthy improvement compared to population numbers in the 1970s, when it was estimated that only 20 individuals existed in the wild.
FWC commissioner Ron Bergeron explained, "In late 70′s, early 80′s we were down to about 30 panthers left in wild so it’s tremendous success story. Today we’re up to 100 to 160 panthers in the Everglades."
Biologists have a monitoring collar on the panther so they can observe how he’s doing with preferred habitats, home range size, birth rates and causes of death.
Florida Panther Released Into the Wild
An endangered Florida panther rescued as a kitten and raised in captivity has made a rare run back into the wild. The state's wildlife agency released the panther into a wildlife management area in the Florida Everglades.
Female Panther Release 1-31-13
FWC biologists released a female Florida panther at the Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County. The panther, along with its brother, had been raised at the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee since they were 5 months old after their mother was found dead in 2011.